Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Snake People

Directed by Juan Ibáñez, 1971

Not only does the film open in color (a pleasant surprise, as I’ve been reviewing black and white zombie movies lately) but it opens with a diabolically cackling voodoo dwarf. I am ready for this ride. Filmed around 1968, it has a fabulously mod opening credit sequence. Swinging!

The Snake People takes place on yet another island where the natives have discovered the secret of corpse reanimation. Sex zombies are popular here—“docile native girls” giving into their “primal urges”, as we’re told. This fleet of nubile girls kisses and chomps their way through meddling policemen. Flesh eating in an early zombie film! Yay! One of them even looks a little green-gray in color, acknowledging decomposition and the eventual gore of zombies; otherwise the zombies are perfectly humanlike.

On the side of the angels (the mongoose people?) are a hard-drinking handsome cop, a French policeman determined to bring law and order to this zombie-lovin’ island, and a beautiful temperance activist visiting her island-dwelling uncle (a barely recognizable Boris Karloff, near the end of his career). On the side of the zombies is, of course, Boris Karloff. (When zombies come from non-white populations, a white man inevitably bridges the two races to exacerbate the zombie menace. To identify the villain in these films, just pick the white man who loves the island and its people. He who champions racial tolerance and cultural empathy is always the zombie freak.)

Zombie explanation: Voodoo. Again.

Contribution to the zombie canon: I’m having a hard time sifting a lesson out of this film. I liked the evil snake woman’s hips, I guess. Extended musical scenes were still reasonably common at the time, and the extended native dance ceremony is a too-familiar sight in these voodoo zombie movies. But I’d watch it again for her hips.

Favorite moment: Cranky old Boris, looking like KFC’s Colonel, chasing a co-conspirator around a table with his cane.

Lessons learned: There are ALWAYS drums on the island.

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